Acknowledging our heroes is a vital component of Black history. At LMU, Black students look up to their own. To some, he’s Mr. Mason. To others, he’s Charles. But to the community, he’s known as the Godfather.
Charles Mason is a staple among LMU’s Black faculty and staff as associate director of transfer admission. His 30-year tenure has brought many students, faculty, and future leaders to the bluff, and it is only right to recognize the years of service that he’s brought to the university.
Mason’s interest in college and universities began in junior high. “I would take the bus and just ride to different colleges,” he recalled. “My family would look for me, and I’d tell them that I went to a college. I would go to different colleges all over the L.A. area, just fascinated. And I knew that I wanted to go to college.”
His interest in college would then turn into a passion once he started the college application process. “When I got into high school, I started helping my friends with the college admissions process,” he remembered. “I didn’t realize that it could be a career. I just had no idea.”
He started his career working in community-based organizations in South Los Angeles as a college advisor helping Black students with the admissions process. While reading the classifieds, he stumbled on an ad for a job at LMU. “Fast forward, it has now been 30 years that I’ve worked at LMU. And honestly, I would not work at any other institution,” he said.
Mason was hired at LMU in 1990. Around that time, Black students had only made up about 2 percent of the campus. Noticing the small number, he reached out to students at that time and began to work with them in recruiting future Black Lions.
“We have a Black student admissions team now, but that truly was the very, very first black student admissions team,” he said. These students – Michael Evans and Frank Key among the many he mentioned – formed an organization known as Rho Rho Beta and would go out into the surrounding communities to talk to prospective Black students. “We would travel. We would go everywhere, and the students just were phenomenal at telling their stories,” he said. “They would talk to students who had never heard of LMU, but they saw the students.”
The students who traveled with Mason share their stories and their love for the university. So much so that the number of Black students coming in as first-year students skyrocketed from what it was before. “It was a student initiative, a student motivation, and their drive that catapulted those numbers,” he said.
Mason has seen hundreds of Black students come and go, each of whom he holds close to his heart. “The amazing part of it is I have so many memories,” he said. “Heartwarming and positive memories of the students, the Black students who came through the doors of LMU. Most of them graduated. Others did not graduate. But I’m friends with most of them to this day.”
From first stepping onto campus in the 90s, Mason made it his mission to cultivate a family among the Black students and faculty. They’re not just a community; they’re a family. “You could talk to me. Not only me but others around campus. That’s what we have. I think that’s what stands out,” he said. “It’s the community, it’s the achievement, it’s the outcome.”
Mason, though, recognizes that the university has a long road ahead for bettering its experience for Black students. “When you talk about anti-racism, it’s not just a slogan,” he said. “It’s not just a 2020 thing. It needs to be consistent with whom you say you are. There needs to be more of a commitment to that.”
But there are many professors and faculty who work to hold the university accountable for being an anti-racist institution. The students are the reason Mason has stayed at LMU for so long. “No greater experience in my professional life, than to work with the people to help our community,” he said. “I just want to be someone that you can always count on. We all need help, so if I can help you, I’m there.”
By Jullian Montes-Pearson ’23
Jullian Montes-Pearson is a junior journalism major and Black Student Union president.
- Check out the DEI spring 2022 calendar.
- LMU faculty and staff are invited to participate in a Story Circle facilitation training, today from 2-4 p.m. A Story Circle is a lightly facilitated dialogue process that uses the Rx Racial Healing methodology, the signature practice of the Truth, Racial Healing, and Transformation (TRHT) national network that LMU is now part of. Participants will experience an abridged Story Circle and will then practice developing their own purpose statements and prompts for future circles. All are welcome, whether or not you have previously participated in a Story Circle. Register in advance for the Zoom link here.
- Attend the “What Keeps Us Safe?: The Need for Criminal Justice System Reform” panel today from 6-8 p.m., Ahmanson Auditorium, UNH 1000. Registration is not required. More information can be found here.
- Join us for the Cabinet Associates Program Culmination Ceremony on Tuesday, April 19, 3-4 p.m., ECC 1857, University Hall. RSVP here.
- Come and honor this year’s Cabinet Associates:
- Marne Campbell, Associate Professor and Chair, African American Studies
- Daniel Marschner, Director of International Admission, Enrollment Management
- Manuel Ponce, Clinical Associate Professor and Director, Institute for School Leadership and Administration (ISLA), School of Education
- Jannell Roberts, Senior Assistant Dean for Admission and Enrollment Services, Loyola Law School
- Eliza Rodriguez y Gibson, Professor of Chicana/o and Latina/o Studies and Associate Dean, BCLA
- Csilla Samay, Assistant Dean for International Students and Initiatives, Student Affairs
- Come and honor this year’s Cabinet Associates: